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2C or Not 2C: Phenethylamine Designer Drug Review

Abstract

New groups of synthetic “designer drugs” have increased in popularity over the past several years. These products mimic the euphoric effects of other well-known illicit drugs but are advertised as “legal” highs and are sold over the internet, at raves and night clubs, and in head shops. The 2C series drugs are ring-substituted phenethylamines that belong to a group of designer agents similar in structure to 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy). Understanding the pharmacology and toxicology of these agents is essential in order to provide the best medical care for these patients. This review focuses on the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, clinical effects, and treatment of 2C drug intoxication based on available published literature. Multiple names under which 2C drugs are sold were identified and tabulated. Common features identified in patients intoxicated with 2Cs included hallucinations, agitation, aggression, violence, dysphoria, hypertension, tachycardia, seizures, and hyperthermia. Patients may exhibit sympathomimetic symptoms or symptoms consistent with serotonin toxicity, but an excited delirium presentation seems to be consistent amongst deaths attributed to 2C drugs; at least five deaths have been reported in the literature in patients intoxicated with 2C drugs. 2C drugs are a group of designer intoxicants, many of which are marketed as legal, but may carry risks that consumers are unaware of. These drugs may be characterized by either serotonergic toxicity or a sympathomimetic toxidrome, but a presentation consistent with excited delirium is consistent amongst the reported 2C-related deaths. Treatment of 2C intoxication is primarily supportive, but immediate action is required in the context of excited delirium, hyperthermia, and seizure activity.

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Correspondence to Samuel J. Stellpflug.

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Dean, B.V., Stellpflug, S.J., Burnett, A.M. et al. 2C or Not 2C: Phenethylamine Designer Drug Review. J. Med. Toxicol. 9, 172–178 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13181-013-0295-x

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Keywords

  • 2C
  • Phenethylamine
  • Shulgin
  • Hallucinogen
  • Designer